Remembering Jason Kidd’s time with the New York Knicks

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With Jason Kidd set to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame, it’s time we take a look back at his short yet impactful tenure with the New York Knicks.

When Jason Kidd signed with the New York Knicks in the summer of 2012, the team was at a crossroads. Jeremy Lin‘s breakout campaign had swept over the entire nation the season prior, but a knee injury forced him to miss the Knicks’ five-game playoff loss to the Miami Heat.

The fans, still enamored with Lin’s rags to riches storyline, were clamoring for the Harvard graduate to be re-signed by New York with the hopes that a full season in the Big Apple could lead to bigger and better things.

Lin, a restricted free agent, signed a three-year, $25 million dollar offer sheet from the Houston Rockets—a poison pill contract that the Knicks simply weren’t looking to match.

Plan B for New York was Kidd, who joined the Knicks at age 39 on a three-year deal worth $9 million.

Because of his age and the additional signing of Raymond Felton, head coach Mike Woodson slotted Jason Kidd at shooting guard, where he’d be able to conserve energy playing off the ball.

A primary ballhandler for the entirety of his career, Kidd would be faced with playing off the ball more often than not. He’d have to focus more on making the pass that leads to the assist rather than the assist itself, and he’d have to be a reliable floor-spacer whenever he took the court.

Most important of all, he’d be tasked with getting franchise player Carmelo Anthony to play a more selfless brand of basketball—something the score-first Anthony has never been fond of.

As Kidd has done wherever he went during his playing career, he thrived.

The Knicks won 54 games, increasing their winning percentage from .545 to .659, and going from the No. 7 to No. 2 in the Eastern Conference. It was due in no small part to the presence of the 10-time All-Star.

Kidd played 68 percent of his 26.9 minutes per game at the 2-guard spot, making the transition without a hiccup.

His impact wasn’t felt through his simple averages of 6.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. It was felt through his willingness to always make the right play regardless of the outcome.

He excelled at the hockey assist, usually turning down good shots for great ones. His teammates followed suit—so much so that Anthony wanted the offense run through Kidd because he trusted him to make the right play at the right time.

Per Nate Taylor of The New York Times:

"“He told me, ‘Let’s play through you,’ ” Kidd said. “Coach wanted to play through Carmelo, but Carmelo was like, ‘No, I want to play through Jason.’ I think that’s the greatest compliment a teammate can get.”"

His calm and relaxed demeanor was also very useful, as he’d lean on his experience to help the Knicks close out games they’d been so accustomed to losing in the past.

Kidd didn’t just make his teammates better; he made them trust each other by infusing his trademark unselfishness into their basketball DNA.

While the assist numbers don’t show it—the Knicks were last in the league—the team drained a league-high 10.9 threes per game en route to breaking the then all-time record for most three-point field goals made in a season with 891.

Teams don’t lead the league in three-pointers made by going on hot-streaks every single game. They do it by swinging the ball and getting open shots for their shooters.

The Knicks were successful at that because of Kidd’s leadership in getting them to buy into a more selfless brand of basketball. Sadly, after a successful regular season, the playoffs were where Kidd’s age finally caught up with him.

After beating the Boston Celtics in six games, the Knicks and Kidd ran out of gas against the Indiana Pacers in the second round, losing a physical battle that lasted six games as well.

Kidd shot 17.6 percent from beyond the arc during the Knicks 12 playoff games, a brutal mark for a guy who shot 35.1 for the regular season.

Father time is undefeated, and Kidd happened to run out of gas at the worst possible time for the Knicks. He’d retire that offseason, ending what looked to be a pretty good relationship with the city of New York and the team.

While he certainly won’t have his number hanging in the MSG rafters, Kidd was a major contributor on arguably the best New York Knicks squad of this century.

His unselfishness and level-headedness in crunch time helped bring a level of joy to Madison Square Garden on a nightly basis.

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While his stay in New York will most likely be looked at as no more than a blip on his 19-year radar, Knicks fans will always remember Jason Kidd for his contributions to one of the best teams they’ve seen in quite some time.